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Whether you’re travelling for work or pleasure, here are some of the disasters you might encounter on a future trip (we hope you don’t). After experiencing some of these ourselves, we’ve put together our tips for avoiding trouble when next you travel.

Losing your luggage

This can be pretty inconvenient – and it could take some time to be reunited with your bags. When departing for your trip, take a photo of your luggage with any identifying features to help the airline track down your bag. Pack as light as possible and keep all the important documents in your hand luggage. Whenever my luggage has been lost on a domestic flight in Australia, it has been couriered to me a couple of days later.

Having your data stolen

More common than people realise – this is one disaster you might not realise has happened, until it’s too late. Use a VPN whenever you are connecting to a public or hotel internet connection from a personal device – especially when overseas. Turn on two-factor authentication on Facebook, email and other online systems. If possible, take a second phone to use for your trip which can be wiped once you return home. Never leave your electronic devices unattended, including in your hotel room.

Losing your passport or other important documents

If you’re travelling overseas, losing your passport will really slow you down. Keep a printed copy of your passport in your hand luggage and checked luggage, but also keep a photo on your phone, and a copy in the cloud (such as Dropbox) – perhaps share the folder with a friend or family member. There are a range of tools to keep your travel plans together rather than carrying a pile of printed documents on your trip – I use Tripit (https://www.tripit.com) which allows you to share your travel plans with friends, family and colleagues. 

Being stuck in a storm / fire

Before you head to another country, learn the emergency number (112, 911, 000 etc) in case you need it. Make sure you have travel insurance which covers you in the event of a severe weather event – read the fine print for inclusions. If a disaster occurs, ensure you have funds available to access transport or pay for short term costs that can later be refunded by your insurer – local currency and a credit card. Listen to local media for the latest information and follow local emergency services on social media for updates. If you have access to internet, let your family and friends back home know that you’re OK – and avoid sightseeing in the impacted area. If you’re heading abroad, don’t forget to register your trip with Smart Traveller.

Getting lost

Technology has made it really easy to find your way in a new city. If you don’t have a data plan for your phone, download the Google Maps areas ahead of time, and other apps specific to the city you are visiting. My most useful tip for this however – is to book accommodation in the centre of the city. Avoid budget accommodation on the outskirts which requires multiple trips on public transport or Uber fares – and instead use the map feature of your hotel booking site to choose centrally located accommodation. When you arrive, take a photo of the hotel or keep a copy of the hotel business card in your wallet. In the event you do become lost, stay calm, ask a local for help and show the business card – this especially helps in non-English speaking countries.

Flight delays and cancellations, transportation issues

Unfortunately sometimes delays and cancellations can’t be avoided – however it’s good to know how you can be best prepared for these situations. Within Australia, not all airlines offer equal assistance when a flight is delayed or cancelled. Choice recently compared the four major airlines and found that if the delay was due to an event outside the control of the airline (eg a storm), Qantas is the only airline to offer meals, refreshments and accommodation: https://www.choice.com.au/travel/on-holidays/airlines/articles/flight-delays-and-cancellations-compensation. Overseas, check which airport you are heading to as many cities are serviced by multiple – and some have lengthy journeys to the city centre.

Safe travels!

Andrew McCullough

Andrew works and volunteers in emergency management and has tertiary qualifications in engineering, business, disaster management and public relations. Andrew is passionate about engaging local communities to become more resilient.